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How To Start a Digital Marketing Agency and Secrets for Success Ready to start your own digital marketing agency? Follow along for the step-by-step process and secrets to success.

By Nick Chernets

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

These days, a profitable business model trying to make it in today's flooded market simply cannot afford to exist without effective digital marketing strategies. This is where starting an actual digital marketing agency can prove to be the right move.

The goal of a digital marketing agency is to help improve a business's digital ranking, reach, and visibility. To succeed, a digital marketing agency needs to be built on a solid foundation.

Digital marketing services include things like:

  • Web design
  • Graphic design
  • Search engineoptimization (SEO)
  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Paid advertising

When starting, keep in mind you don't have to do everything all at once. It may be best to begin by specializing in certain areas and grow from there. Find your niche and set your agency up to grow.

Keep reading for steps to start a digital marketing agency and secrets for success.

How to know if starting a digital marketing agency is right for you

Over$571.16 billion will be spent on digital advertising worldwide in 2022. That is a 16.2 percent increase from 2021, which will likely only continue to rise.

If you're ready to join the action, look at these questions below to see if the digital marketing industry is right for you.

  • Can you identify a gap in the industry that you know you can fill?
  • Can you find a niche and produce results?
  • Can you build a team and handle the responsibility of leading?
  • Are you ready for the grind of starting your own business?
  • Do you have a vision for your agency?

If you answered affirmatively to the majority of those questions, then read on for how to get going.

10 steps to start a digital marketing agency

1. Keep reaching out to prospects

It doesn't matter where you are with your digital marketing agency; the thing that can help it grow is continuous prospecting. In this business, there's no such thing as "enough prospects."

The more prospects you target, the more offers you'll get. And the more offers you get, the more money and success might come your way.

Remember that you never want to appear desperate when reaching out to your target market. It's perfectly fine to lose a prospect or decide you don't want to work with them.

Related: 3 Reasons Why You Must Go Down the Rabbit Hole When Prospecting

Sometimes, you have to be selective for the sake of your well-being and the future of your business. That said, if a particular prospect isn't a good match, it's not the end of the world.

There are plenty of different prospecting strategies that you can use to propel your digital marketing agency. Try as many as possible until you land a plan that works best for you and your business.

2. Entice the prospects with a great offer

As you keep targeting your prospects and have some of them reach back to you, it's important to entice them with an offer they wouldn't want to refuse.

Remember that these prospects have plenty of marketers targeting them. Just because you managed to establish a contact doesn't guarantee a closed deal.

The thing about online marketing is that most marketers and agencies today ask for upfront pricing and payment or retainers to do the work.

This is rather logical, considering digital marketing projects take time and effort to show true results. Still, this doesn't guarantee that the business owners will get the work they're paying for.

You can find your irresistible offer right there; for instance, a free or discounted trial period for SEO or paid ads can be an excellent way to show your agency's capabilities. Generating leads for free for a shorter period may be another kind of offer that's also hard to pass.

This can show the business owners that you run a serious, professional, and confident agency. When you deliver on these initial offers, they'll be far more likely to proceed to hire you for long-term projects.

Related: Why You Should Hire a Smaller Digital Marketing Agency

3. Focus on the delivery instead of over-promising

Most people are obsessed with selling themselves to prospects, but doing that by over-promising can set you up for failure. When explaining the strategy to your client, it's best to downplay their expectations.

For instance, you can achieve the desired SEO rank for their website in three months but explain to them that it might take as long as six months to get to that point. And when you make the mark after three months (or anywhere less than six), your client might be impressed with the delivery and happily remain on board with your digital marketing agency.

4. Start by fully mastering one niche

As a digital marketing agency, your goal is to plan and execute marketing campaigns for clients without too much concern about their niche. You'll gain insight into these niches as you go.

But it would be very beneficial for a startupdigital marketing agency to have at least one specific niche fully mastered instead of trying to be a full-service agency from the get-go.

When you speak the lingo of the niche and show your interest in it, the clients of that niche may be more inclined to choose your agency. It also helps you get into the details of that client's specific struggles in the market, thus delivering better solutions.

Related: How to Choose a Digital Marketing Agency For Your Brand?

5. Outsource the grunting part

You don't have to do all the work on your own. Even if you have regular employees, they don't have to waste their time and effort on unproductive and menial tasks.

The beauty of digital marketing is that it's all done online. Therefore, you can also find online assistance for some grunt work. Working with freelancers or virtual assistants on matters like these can save you a bunch of time and money so that you can focus on more pressing issues.

Using other companies for your digital marketing APIs or other relevant solutions is also possible to ease and streamline your work.

Related: How to Build a Better Business with Outsourcing

6. Pay attention to what the client tells you

Most of today's business owners understand that they need digital marketing, but they probably need help understanding it. Chances are that they know what they need to achieve their own goals.

So, if a client tells you they want more customers to hire more people and have more free time for themselves, don't try to pitch them with talks about SEO, Google, social media, and Facebook ads.

They are more likely to respond to you positively if you show understanding of their situation and explain to them in their own words that you can make their goal happen.

7. Offer different marketing skills

As mentioned, several different aspects and skills go into the vast space of digital marketing term. It's okay to start your digital marketing agency by offering every single skill, but some are more effective than others when it comes to making a name out of your agency and growing it from there.

For a start, make it a point that your digital marketing agency offers SEO, lead generation, AdWords, and social media ads

Related: Small Business Week: 6 Signs It's Time to Hire a Digital Marketing Agency

8. Maintain long-term relationships with clients

Clients can change their minds at any point and tell you that they don't want you to run ads for them anymore or don't need your SEO services. In these cases, there's not much that you can do unless you prepare a strategy to keep the client long-term in advance.

As you're doing lead generation and ranking the websites you own to boost the client's SEO, you can always keep those leads and websites once they decide to cut you off.

After all, they're your property. You can also create high-quality backlinks that the websites you're working with simply can't afford to lose.

9. Electronic payments all the way

What are you doing running a digital marketing agency and asking for written checks from your clients?

Think about it — if they have to write a monthly check for your services, they'll be more inclined to consider just how much it's all worth. This is a conscious action and thought process on their part, not to mention that a monthly payment via check might seem quite expensive to them at some point.

On the other hand, electronic payments — specifically weekly electronic payments — are far more beneficial for your digital marketing agency and keeping clients in the sales funnel. They're effortless, especially when you have the auto-pay option.

Taking a small chunk with electronic auto-pay every week won't seem as excessive or splurgy compared to writing a big fat check every month, so get in on the Ecommerce game.

Related: 25 Payment Tools for Small Businesses, Freelancers and Startups

10. Always think long-term

There can be instances when your clients are late with their payments or offer a deal that might be less than what you'd normally go for. Of course, you shouldn't make it a habit to go below your worth, but if the client in question is someone you already have good experience with, it can do you good long-term to meet them halfway from time to time.

They'll find you even more pleasant to work with and send much-needed referrals, making the current situation well worth it.

The world of business and digital marketing is not all black and white. Find your little gray area where you can establish yourself as an authority.

Secrets to success

Starting a new business takes time, dedication, and some luck along the way. Below are some secrets to success to help make the startup process go as smoothly as possible.

1. Create SMART goals

Consider creating SMART goals for your new business venture in any industry. SMART goals are milestones you want to accomplish, designed in a clear and concise way.

  • Specific: Exactly what you want to accomplish
  • Measurable: Data-driven goals that can be measured
  • Attainable: Push yourself, but make it realistic
  • Relevant: Make it authentic to your mission
  • Time bound: Create check-ins and specific time frames to accomplish your goals

Think of your SMART goals as your template for success. When creating them, envision your ultimate goal and vision for your digital marketing agency. Then, create SMART action items to hold you accountable for getting there.

For example, say you want to grow your audience for your digital marketing agency to gain new customers. That's a great goal, but how will you accomplish that?

If your specific goal is to grow your audience, how can you make that measurable? In other words, what attainable numbers can you associate with your goal? How will you measure your new goal, and why is it essential for your business? When are you going to check in on your progress?

2. Automate where possible

Startup culture has an all-hands-on-deck feel. As your digital marketing business grows, it is important to ensure that you and your employees are using time as efficiently as possible. Automating your company is more than electronic payments — it can help you streamline tasks and optimize workflow so your marketing team can make the most of their time.

Social media platforms and email marketing play a huge part in digital marketing skills, and it is one aspect where automation can certainly be used. Automation can help you create content calendars, allowing you to "set and forget" social posts and email blasts, which can help you hit your outreach goals without blowing your marketing budget.

Most automation platforms can also provide you with analytics reports on content performance instead of an employee having to collect that information themselves. Automation platforms may also guide you on optimal posting times, impressions, and other valuable data that can help guide your decision-making.

Your business can also use automation for:

  • Tracking leads
  • Accounting
  • Human resources
  • Learning management

Related: How to Use Automation (and Avoid the Pitfalls) as an Entrepreneur

3. Stay on trend

The digital world is always changing, and trends are constantly going in and out of style. As a digital marketing agency, your clients likely expect you to be the expert in the digital field.

That means it is your job to ensure the work you produce for them performs well based on industry trends.

Key strategies to stay on trend include:

  • Subscribing to expert marketing LinkedIn pages, WordPress blogs, newsletters, and influencer podcasts
  • Conducting specific research
  • Setting Google alerts for keywords that matter to you or your client
  • Searching for relevant and high-traffic hashtags
  • Keeping an eye on top brands for inspiration
  • Making yourself an expert by becoming a native of social platforms

4. Think like your customer

Digital marketing is a competitive industry. When you enter the sector, there will be bigger and more established agencies than yours, so you need to find the key to entry.

One thing that businesses often forget is to stop and look at everything from a client's perspective. To attract and serve new clients, you must consider how they see things.

Potential clients search for agencies that:

  • Have a specialty
  • Are focused on and dedicated to their clients
  • Can show proven results and positive testimonials
  • Use data-driven marketing plans
  • Can tell a story
  • Produce quality work

What you should know before starting a digital marketing agency

Digital marketing is here to stay, so if you're ready to start your own digital marketing agency, prepare to do the work. As you begin to form your plans from scratch, remember that you should map out your goals and create ways to hold yourself accountable for measuring them.

In addition to that, keep in mind that digital marketing is more than content creation. Running an agency is also about creating and maintaining relationships with different types of clients.

Be the agency everyone wants to work with by creating unique content and making your customers feel welcome and seen every time.

You've got the step-by-step secrets to a successful business. Now it's time to make it happen.

For more informative articles on all things business and finance, check out Entrepreneur's other guides and resources here,

Nick Chernets

CEO of DataForSEO

Nick Chernets is the founder and CEO of DataForSEO, the leading provider of marketing data. While he's passionate about data analysis and SEO, he also enjoys sharing the experience from the business side of the industry.

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